Kanye West once said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
This is one of my favorite ‘Kanye moments.’ About 14 years ago, during the Concert for Hurricane Relief broadcast that aired after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said that African Americans were being racially profiled by the media. West used the example of how the media’s coverage of the hurricane depicted white people as looking for food, but portrayed black people as “looting.” It took the federal government five days to send help because most people affected by Katrina were, well, black, West said.
Before your heart swells with pride, let us join hands and remember this is the same man that also said slavery was a choice. Let us take a moment of silence for the Old Kanye.
There’s more than a little truth to Kanye’s words. I can’t help but think this is similar to the relationship between Chapman and its students of color.
On paper, Chapman champions its ‘diversity’ through programs like ‘I Am Chapman,’ but in reality, I don’t think Chapman cares about its students of color. African-American students made up 1.7 percent of the total undergraduate population. Some students have told me Chapman Public Safety asks our black and brown students if they really go to this school and asks to see their ID cards – alienating the group that is already undoubtedly marginalized.
Before the Cross-Cultural Center (CCC) was established in 2017, former Chapman president Jim Doti said the center would “ghettoize” campus. Our on-campus black and brown student resources really only include the CCC and the Black Student Union (BSU) – some of Chapman’s African-American students have stated that BSU is a determining factor in their choice to stay at Chapman. In terms of retention, Chapman’s black students have a lower retention rate than their white peers.
“The Birth of a Nation” poster in Dodge College of Film and Media Arts resulted in a protest that saw hundreds. Despite the poster advertising one of the most racist films in American history, Chapman faculty insisted on voting on whether or not the poster should stay up. While some thought we should honor the ‘cinematic masterpiece,’ the reality is that the movie is credited with the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The poster put black and brown students in danger.
The proximity of white nationalism to Chapman isn’t far: Anaheim has been an area historically known for KKK activity. In February 2016, there was a rally near Chapman Grand –just three miles away from Chapman’s main campus. On Aug. 26, Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, came on campus to cover up flyers for La Frontera, yet we heard nothing from administration. Even a message of caution or support for black and brown students would have been enough to ease the nerves of some students on campus. Given Orange County’s eerie connections to the KKK, you’d think Chapman would be more supportive of their black and brown community.
Personally, I would like to see Chapman nurture these demographics: initiate more events to celebrate diversity and fund clubs like BSU and the Queer and Trans People of Color Collective. I would like to see Chapman make an active effort to improve their retention rate for black and brown students as well as increase the acceptance of students of color to even the scales. I would also want to see the university champion alumnus Justin Simien – the creator of “Dear White People” – the way that they support the Duffer brothers. If Chapman intends to improve the experience for students of color, it needs to make generous strides towards equity and equality on campus.
And if you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention.